Apple looking to provide 3D Web surfing

Apple is attempting to provide 3D representations of World Wide Web sites with a browser plug-in.

Imagine surfing the Web in 3D, virtually flying through complex Web sites using a three-dimensional layout of how the information is stored. That is what Apple is attempting to provide with a browser plug-in that gives users 3D representations of World Wide Web sites.

The Cupertino, California, company's newly sharpened focus on the Internet has spawned Project X, a Macintosh and Windows browser plug-in. A prerelease version of the plug-in for either platform can be downloaded for free from Apple's home page at mcf.research.apple.com.

One of the expected benefits of Project X is the time saved when looking for specific information on a Web site.

Project X is the first product to be based on the Meta Content Format (MCF), an open file format created by Apple to find information on the Internet. Apple, along with Netscape, is pushing the platform-independent MCF as a de facto standard for Internet navigation. Yahoo has committed to supporting MCF by creating an MCF-compliant version of its home page.

Included in Project X is a tool kit for creating MCF maps of Web sites. That lets users to turn their sites into MCF-compliant sites that can then be navigated in 3D.

One observer says although it is too early to tell how MCF will fare in its bid to become a de facto standard, it is an important technology. "As content on the Web gets deeper and deeper, visual representation technologies will get more important," says Greg Cline, an analyst at Business Research Group in Newton, Massachusetts. "Project X, although it's only a technology demonstration, is a good illustration of the basic benefits, like 3D browsing, of MCF."

The final release of the product is set for year's end, says Andy Lauta, manager of product marketing at the AppleNet division.

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